Ottawa police chief addresses Montsion verdict: 'We are listening, learning, changing'
OTTAWA -- Nearly a week after Ottawa Police Const. Daniel Montsion was acquitted of all charges in the death of Abdirahman Abdi, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly personally addressed the verdict and community for the first time.
"No one can ever accept the loss of life in a situation like this, especially of a vulnerable citizen experiencing a mental health crisis. None of us, citizen or police, ever want to find ourselves in a situation like the one that took place on July 24, 2016," Sloly told the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday.
"We are listening, learning and changing. We will support our service members and our community members through these changes."
Last Tuesday, Justice Robert Kelly said he had reasonable doubt that Montsion’s actions caused Abdi’s death and found the officer not guilty of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
Following the verdict, the Ottawa Police Service sent out a statement attributed to the force, saying it respected the court’s decision and that Abdi’s death has weighed heavily on “all members of the Ottawa Police Service.”
The statement went on to say “We recognize the environment in which we deliver services and we have heard the calls for change to the way we police…We have been seeking out better ways to help people who are in crisis. We are not doing this alone. We are working with community partners and subject-matter experts to advance training, operations and culture.”
The chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board also addressed the verdict Monday afternoon.
"This verdict has added to an already strained relationship between the community and ottawa police service," said Coun. Diane Deans. "I am asking the public to understand that their message has been heard loud and clear and we will make our absolute best efforts to reform service in a meaningful and lasting way."
Over the weekend, hundreds of people protested the verdict with a march through downtown ending at police headquarters on Elgin Street. The Justice for Abdirahman coalition issued five demands for the city of Ottawa:
- Freeze the police budget now
- Reallocate funds to Black and Indigenous communities
- Fire violent or racist police
- Demand municipal control of police
- Non-police mental health intervention
A motion motion coming to council on Wednesday is asking for the Police Services Board to consult with the public and come back with a report that outlines what an alternative model for community safety would look like when it comes to responding to mental health and addiction calls.
Montsion, who had been suspended with pay following the charges, has had the suspension lifted.
"We think that in the community there is a huge appetite for this kind of deep systemic change," said William Felepchuk a member of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition. "We want to hear not more empty words, empty promises or words of sympathy, we want to hear about how they’re going to make the hard decisions to make the systemic changes that need to take place."